August 4

This Day in History

Hollywood

Aug 4, 1989:

Sex, lies and videotape opens

On this day in 1989, sex, lies and videotape, which helped usher in the independent film revolution of the early 1990s, opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The film, which starred James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo, marked the feature-film directorial debut of Steven Soderbergh, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.

Set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sex, lies and videotape is about John, a yuppie lawyer (Gallagher) who is married to the sexually repressed Ann (MacDowell) and having an affair with Ann’s free-spirited sister, Cynthia (San Giacomo). John’s old friend Graham (Spader), who later reveals that he videotapes women about their sexual experiences, returns to town and after a series of exchanges, becomes involved with Ann.

Steven Soderbergh, only 26 at the time the film was released, reportedly wrote sex, lies and videotape in a little over a week and shot the movie in one month. The film went on to become a commercial and critical success and won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Sex, lies and videotape was at the forefront of the low-budget independent film movement of the early 1990s, which also included the work of such writer-directors as Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Cigarettes & Coffee).

Following the success of sex, lies and videotape, Soderbergh made a string of less well-received films before scoring a hit with 1998’s Out of Sight, which starred George Clooney (who would become a frequent Soderbergh collaborator) and Jennifer Lopez. Soderbergh went on to direct Erin Brockovich (2000), starring Julia Roberts, and the drug-war ensemble drama Traffic (2000). He received Best Director Academy Award nominations for both films, and took home the Oscar statuette for Traffic. Soderbergh’s other directing credits include the blockbuster hit Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its two sequels, along with such films as Solaris (2002), Full Frontal (2002) and The Good German (2006). In late 2008, he reteamed with Traffic star Benicio Del Toro, who played the title role in Che, Soderbergh’s biopic of the legendary Argentine guerrilla Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

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